He told his prophet, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Is 30:18). Think of all the ways he has already blessed you. Does your family love you? So many are trapped in loveless, abusive homes. Has he provided for your material needs through physical abilities and vocational opportunities? So many are trapped in endless poverty. Has he given you the privilege of life in America’s freedom? Who of us earned the right to be born in this country and not in Iraq or North Korea?
Has God showed you his miraculous power in your past? We each have experienced help we did not earn and could not explain. I remember well a Wednesday night prayer meeting in our first pastorate. One of our elderly members came into our Fellowship Hall, her face white as a sheet. She told us that her doctor had called just that hour with the test results: she had pancreatic cancer and only months to live. We prayed earnestly and passionately. The next week she was back, in glorious health. The cancer was gone, and the doctor had no explanation. But we did.
My dentist in our Midland church was in open-heart surgery, and his heart would not start beating again. The doctor came out to tell the family that he was dying. We began to pray. A few moments later the doctor returned to tell us that his heart had started again, on its own, and that he had never seen such a thing in all his years of medical practice. Later, the mayor of Midland suffered a debilitating heart attack. The surgeons operated, but discovered that half of the heart was hard and dead. There was nothing the surgeons could do. But then, while we were praying outside, that dead tissue came back to life and started to beat. The surgeons said they had never seen such a thing.
I know drug addicts who were miraculous healed of their habit, Satanists who were powerfully converted, prisoners who are now preachers. I remember a couple brought to one of our worship services in Atlanta by friends. They were planning to file for divorce the next day. But in a Sunday school class that morning, God healed their marriage. One of our church members here in Dallas came to our country as a Muslim missionary to convert Americans to Islam, and is now a Christian missionary to Muslims. When he came to Christ, his father back home issued a warrant for his arrest should he ever return. He recently went home anyway, and led his father to Christ.
Think about all the ways God has shown his miraculous power to you and those you know. Remember what he has done. Think back to times when he turned your water into his wine, when he met your needs and those of people you love. Remember what Jesus has done, and you’ll be encouraged to believe that he will do it again.
Bring him your pain
Since beginning my work on this commentary, the official in our story has become one of my favorite models for biblical faith. He teaches us much about the kind of trust which Jesus can honor with his miraculous power.
First, we trust Jesus despite every obstacle. The Roman official “went” to Jesus (v. 47). John’s readers knew what we do not: this man walked nearly a marathon to bring his need to our Lord. He was stationed in Capernaum, a significant fishing town on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee. Cana was at least twenty miles to the west. The Sea of Galilee is 700 feet below sea level; Cana was situated atop the Galilean hills (“Galilee” is from the Hebrew word galal, “to roll” [Hobbs, Invitation 39]). But neither distance nor height deterred this father. He teaches us to bring Jesus our pain, however hard the journey may be, however difficult such faith is for us.
Second, we trust Jesus in humility. The official “begged him to come and heal his son” (v. 47). He did not order Jesus to do so, though his rank and office would have afforded him such authority. Social standing and status would not deter this father. It is an amazing scene: an official of the Roman Empire pleading with a Jewish village carpenter for his help. If a high-ranking Army officer stationed in Afghanistan were to walk 20 miles to seek help from an Afghan peasant, we’d be no less astonished. He teaches us to bring Jesus our need, in honest humility.
Third, we trust Jesus personally. The official came himself, not sending a servant in his place. This is the way we each must come to Jesus: “The rich and the poor, the high and the low, must come personally as humble supplicants, and must be willing to bear all the reproach that may be cast on them for thus coming to him” (Barnes 223). The Roman teaches us to get on our own knees before Jesus.
Fourth, we trust Jesus unconditionally. The official begged him to “come and heal his son.” Undoubtedly he had already tried the best physicians Rome could offer, without success. Now he has faith to believe that this itinerant carpenter, this unordained rabbi could do what other men could not. He didn’t ask Jesus to “try to heal his son,” but simply to heal him. He believed that he could. And he was right. He teaches us to ask in absolute, unwavering faith.
James commends such certainty: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (Ja 1:5-8).